I’ve got a lot to thank Bon Jovi for. Back in the day (that’s 1988, kiddies), they were my earliest introduction to the wonderful world of Hair Metal. It’s been quite a ride, and the ‘Jovi sound has mellowed in the intervening years.
So, if you’re a fan of classic Bon Jovi, let’s take a look down memory lane at 10 of their best-known songs:
Those purists who bought their eponymous debut album will know that Runaway isn’t strictly a [[Bon Jovi (Band)|Bon Jovi]] song – it was recorded by Jon Bon as a solo single and became a local hit. Apparently the album version was re-recorded by the official Bon Jovi lineup when the album was recorded, but the single featured session musicians including Dave “Snake” Sabo (later of Skid Row) and Hugh McDonald (who later replaced Alec John Such on bass).
9: It’s My Life
Another return to form for Bon Jovi after what appeared to be a few years lost in the musical wilderness. It’s My Life was a return to a more classic arena rock sound for the band and even drafted in an appearance from Livin’ On A Prayer’s Tommy and Gina in the lyrics.
Those echoes of classic Bon Jovi struck a chord with fans of the bands earlier work who felt abandoned by their sound in those later years.
8: Dry County
An epic tune from the Keep The Faith album, Dry County clocked in at almost 10 minutes long. It was an ambitious song for the band to attempt, having been known for punchy shorter hit records.
Written by Jon, it paints a picture of a journey through desolate countryside and talks about economic and religious issues along the way. It features several extended instrumental sections which all add to the magnitude of the song. Included here for showing a completely different side to Jon Bon Jovi’s writing talent while still managing to rock!
7: Wild Is The Wind
It might seem like an obscure selection, but it is a tribute to the ‘B’ side of Bon Jovi’s New Jersey album, which showcased some excellent material and proved that the band didn’t deal in filler material.
While the song has a relatively simple structure (it is a Bon Jovi song, after all), there’s power and passion in the instrumentation and vocals, and some pounding drums laid down by Tico. In fairness, any of the last 6 tracks from New Jersey could have made this list.
6: Let It Rock
Built for the stadiums, this album opener featured a drawn out, gothic sounding organ intro which segued into Ritchie Sambora’s distorted guitar and a classic ‘Jovi chorus. I was completely surprised to learn that this song wasn’t released as a single. It’s up there with Livin’ On A Prayer and Wanted Dead Or Alive on the Slippery When Wet album.
5: Blood On Blood
Although Blood On Blood was never released as a single, a performance video for the song was on the New Jersey: The Videos compilation. I feel the song has much in common with Bryan Adams’ Summer Of ‘69.
It’s a fond look back at Jon’s youthful hijinx with his friends and about the bonds that they forged in those early days. The live video is especially powerful – it was shot in black and white and parts of the band and audience are highlighted in a blood red colour. There’s a point in the song where Jon and Ritchie sing together “We’re brothers”. I know it’s cheesy, but it always runs a tingle down my spine…
4: Keep The Faith
There was a point in the early 90’s when it looked like Bon Jovi was finished. The band had gone into extended hiatus after the New Jersey tour and rumors abounded that the members were barely on speaking terms. Grunge hit the scene and vaporized the thriving hard rock/hair metal market. We held our collective breath and wondered if there would be a market left for Bon Jovi when they finally returned.
We needn’t have worried, because Keep The Faith managed to show a progression in the band’s style without totally alienating their audience (hello, Def Leppard?) and without selling out to grunge. That instantly recognizable bassline and Jon’s impassioned vocals showed the world there was still life in Bon Jovi.
3: Livin’ On A Prayer
While some would argue that this is the quintessential Bon Jovi song, it gets marked down here for overexposure. Still, Livin’ On A Prayer carries the blue-collar ethic that pervaded Slippery When Wet and originally carried the group to superstardom.
The bass intro, Sambora’s talk box effect on the guitar riff and the soaring synth that raises the verses into a magnificent modern day hymn to struggle and ambition and love. The guitar solo is one of the most memorable of the era, as is the video with Jon in a harness flying over the audience, playing out his Superman fantasy.
2: Wanted Dead Or Alive
This classic acoustic rocker by Jon and Ritchie Sambora marked the genesis of Jon’s ‘cowboy period’ which would later peak when he wrote the Young Guns II soundtrack.
Wanted Dead Or Alive was the third single to be released from the Slippery… album and reached #7 on the Billboard chart.
In the main, the song features a strummed verse and chorus overlaid with a descending twelve-string motif. Throughout the second verse, Ritchie builds up to a blazing solo filled with squealing harmonics. Toward the end, Jon’s lyric equates their hectic touring schedule with a nomadic existence with the line “I’ve been everywhere, still I’m standing tall, I’ve seen a million faces, and I’ve rocked them all”.
1: Lay Your Hands On Me
Lay Your Hands was to New Jersey what Let It Rock was to Slippery When Wet. An excellent atmospheric introduction bursts into what was one of Bon Jovi’s heaviest songs of the time.
For me, Lay Your Hands was one of the defining moments of late 80’s arena rock. The promo video featured a live show and an even longer intro than the album version. At the end of the intro, Jon erupts into the middle of the stage. Sambora’s there in cowboy hat and twin neck guitar, Jon’s strutting down an overhead walkway and pyrotechnics are firing off everywhere. The whole thing rocks from start to finish.